Sophy’s Thai + Cambodian Cuisine: Battambang in Long Beach

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Restaurant Long Beach

Sophy's serves dishes from neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

We had to break up the acidity somehow. Our night started at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach, which was featuring Portland’s Cascade Brewing on the Friday night of their epic Sour Fest, then we drove north to Beachwood’s Long Beach branch for more sour beer. In between, we had an opportunity to eat in an area of Long Beach that houses the largest population of Cambodian ex-pats in Southern California. Sophy Khut’s self-named restaurant resides just north of Cambodia Town. She hails from Battambang and still returns home occasionally to see family and source ingredients to help produce the bright, invigorating cuisine of Cambodia and adjacent Thailand.

Art and traditional Cambodian instruments line the walls of the sprawling space, which takes up nearly half a city block.

Cambodian Instruments Long Beach

Near our table, we spotted criss-crossed tro, which are bowed string instruments similar to violins used in classical music.

A number of options are recognizable as Thai, including curries, sate and noodle dishes. As it turns out, they had three frog dishes, but a pivotal page was missing from our menus, so we never would have known. Dave “The Ubergeek” Lieberman, an OC Weekly food writer with a flair for languages, was at the table with his family, along with erudite food (and beer) lover Gev Kazanchyan, and since we’re all fairly adventurous, we relied on the advice of our waiter. It was Lieberman’s fellow writer at the Weekly, Edwin Goei, who first alerted us to Sophy’s presence in Long Beach.

Cambodian Food Long Beach

Beef Lok Lak ($8.95) was similar to Vietnamese shaking beef, only with juicy squiggles of stir-fried top sirloin instead of cubed filet mignon.

The murky dipping sauce of salt and pepper dusted lime juice lent the dish some good acidity, which seemed to be a recurring theme at Sophy’s. A bed of crisp lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro and onions completed the plate.

Cambodian Food Long Beach

Stir-fry Watercress ($8.95) is called kang kong in Malaysia and has crunchy, hollow stems. At Sophy’s, they stir-fry savory watercress with soybeans, fresh chilies and chopped garlic.

Cambodian Food Long Beach

Such Noh Ngeat ($10.95) is Sophy’s signature dish. Her far from ordinary beef jerky involved burnished tubes of marinated, deep fried flank steak that looked dry, but touted a crusty outer layer and juicy core. Tangy garlic and vinegar dipping sauce provided some welcome acidity.

Cambodian Food Long Beach

Bok La’Hong ($7.95) was a pungent, fairly aggressive green papaya salad with plenty of crunch, punch and lime juice acidity.

Carrot, chilies, sliced tomatoes, long string beans and crushed peanuts factored into the salad, along with a choice of salted crab or dried shrimp. Our tiny crab legs added salinity, but it was tough to get beyond the hard exoskeleton. We probably would have been better off with dried shrimp. Slices of raw cabbage added crunch and helped to tame the funk.

Cambodian Food Long Beach

Khmer Style Nom Bagn Chok ($7.95) involved curry-spiced catfish slurry that washed over rice vermicelli. The murky yellow soup was the day’s mildest dish, but still tasted pretty good.

Cambodian Food Long Beach

We wanted LoadChah, “delicious short and stumpy noodle dish,” but they were all out, so we opted for long and lean MiChah ($7.95) stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, crunchy bean sprouts and crush peanuts.

The sticky dish featured a flavor profile similar to pad Thai, along with a choice of meat, in our case lean pork. A lime squeeze and drizzle of red sweet and sour sauce added complexity.

It turned out to be ironic that we sought relief from the effect of sour beer at a restaurant with dishes that displayed so much acidity, but at least the flavors were bold and concentrated.

Sophy’s Thai + Cambodian Cuisine: Battambang in Long Beach


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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